You or the person you are looking after may be entitled to certain payments and grants to help with fuel bills or making your home warmer and more energy efficient. There are also simple things you can do to save energy and reduce your bills.
The Winter Fuel Payment is a yearly tax free payment to help people pay for their heating in winter. Getting the payment will not affect any of your other benefits.
To qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2013-14 you must:
- have reached the qualifying age (born on or before 5th January 1952), and
- normally live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland on any day in the week of 16th - 22nd September 2013.
Payment is automatic if:
- you received a payment last year, or
- you are getting a State Pension, or
- you or your partner are getting one of the following benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions: Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support.
Otherwise, you will need to make a claim for the payment by 31st March 2014 by calling the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0845 915 15 15. You can also download a claim form from the government website.
If you're receiving certain benefits you may be able to get a Cold Weather Payment of £25 for each week between 1 November and 31 March, in which the average temperature in your local area is at or below freezing over 7 consecutive days. Getting the payments will not affect any of your other benefits.
You don't need to apply. If you are entitled to a Cold Weather Payment, you’ll be paid it automatically. Cold Weather Payments are usually paid into the same bank or building society account as your benefit payments. After each period of very cold weather in your area, you should receive a payment to your account within 14 working days.
You are entitled to Cold Weather Payments if you receive one of the following qualifying benefits:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support with either a Disability or Pensioner Premium, a Disabled Child Premium or Child Tax Credit for a disabled child, or if you have a child under five years old.
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance with either a Disability or Pensioner Premium, a Disabled Child Premium or Child Tax Credit for a disabled child, or if you have a child under five years old.
- Income-related Employment Support Allowance with either the Support Component, the Work-related Activity Component, a Severe or Enhanced Disability Premium, a Pensioner Premium, Child Tax Credit for a disabled child, or if you have a child under five years old.
- Universal Credit and you have a child under the age of 5, or your award includes a disabled child element or an element for limited capability for work or work-related activity (or would do so but for the fact that it includes a carer element), and you are not in employment or gainful self-employment during the qualifying week (although this does not apply if your award includes the disabled child element).
For winter 2013 to 2014, you could get a £135 discount on your electricity bill through the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
The discount won’t affect your Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment.
You will qualify for the discount if on the qualifying day (20th July 2013) your supplier was part of the Warm Home Discount scheme, your name (or your partner’s name) was on the bill and you were either:
- under 75 and only get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit – not the Savings Credit part
75 or over and get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit - even if you also get the Savings Credit part.
If you don’t qualify
If you don’t qualify for the Warm Home Discount under the above rules, some suppliers can offer the discount to those on a low income or those who have a disability or long-term illness, or children. Each supplier has their own rules about who else can get the discount so you should check with your supplier to see if you can get it.
If you qualify for the discount
If you qualify for the discount, you’ll get a letter telling you one of the following:
- you don’t have to apply for the discount – you’ll get it automatically
- you must apply for the discount before the deadline – the letter will tell you why and how.
Letters are sent between September 2013 and January 2014. Contact the helpline if your letter doesn’t arrive by February 2014 and you think you might be eligible. If you’re not sure whether you would be eligible it is always worth double checking, so get in contact with your supplier.
The deadline to claim for winter 2013 to 2014 is 14 March 2014. Late claims won’t be accepted. (The deadline to claim for winter 2012 to 2013 was 13 March 2013. Late claims won’t be accepted. If you received confirmation that you would get a rebate in 2012-2013 but you have not received this yet, you should contact your energy supplier.)
If you have a general query regarding the scheme or think you may be eligible, call the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0845 603 9439 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm).
There are a number of grants and schemes available to help with the cost of having energy saving improvements fitted in your home. To find out more information about what might be relevant to you, contact the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 (independent, expert advice on saving energy in your home).
Reducing your fuel bills
Contact your supplier
Some suppliers offer special discounted tariffs for vulnerable customers. These are often referred to as 'social tariffs'. Some suppliers also offer help with energy efficiency measures such as insulation or draught proofing. You should contact your supplier to find out what help they provide and whether or not you are eligible. Each supplier will have its own eligibility criteria, for example they may help people over 60 or those with disabilities or in receipt of certain benefits.
If you are unable to benefit from a special discounted tariff it is still worth asking if you could be paying less. They may be able to offer you a cheaper deal, or you might be able to save money by paying in a different way, for example by direct debit.
You may also want to shop around to see if you can find a better deal from another supplier, by using a price comparison website.
To use one of these services you will need to provide information such as your postcode, the name of your current supplier and the name of your deal, and an idea of how much you spend on gas and electricity. You will then be provided with details of how much you would pay if you changed to other suppliers. You should also call the gas and electricity suppliers directly to confirm these prices, before making any decision.
Note for Northern Ireland: The information on this page does not apply to Northern Ireland. There is only one electricity supplier and there are only two gas suppliers. You can still contact your supplier to see if you are on the best price plan and to ask if there is other help they may be able to provide.
These simple steps will help you to keep warmth in, cold out, and fuel bills down. You’ll save money and you’ll also be helping to save the environment:
- Draw the curtains as soon as it starts to get dark to stop heat escaping through the windows.
- Fit draught excluders around doors and windows.
- Don’t cover radiators with curtains or washing.
- Don’t overheat your home. Turning your thermostat down by one degree could save you up to £65 a year.
- Only heat areas of the house you use, for example turn off the radiator in the spare bedroom if you have individual radiator controls.
- Place an insulating jacket over your hot water tank. This can save up to £15 a year.
- Don’t leave your appliances on standby as they still use electricity. You can save up to £37 a year by turning appliances off properly.
- Only boil the water you need rather than filling the kettle completely.
- Fit all the lights in your home with energy saving lightbulbs and you could save up to £50 a year.
- Try to only use your washing machine or dishwasher when it has a full load.